When in an emergency situation, many call 9-1-1. Those who live in rural areas of Lamar County rely on volunteer first responders, and the county is in need of volunteers.
The average response time for Lamar County VFDs is about 15 minutes, according to Lamar County Emergency Management Coordinator Quincy Blount. VFDs like Powderly, Faught or Chicota average about a 10-minute response time, while some other departments will respond within 20-30 minutes. Some departments, according to Blount, could have longer response times and others could be shorter. When it comes to call volumes, Powderly VFD alone responded to about 460 calls in 2021 and was already at 135 toward the end of March 2022 – nearly 30% of last year’s.
“A lot of times, it depends on the day,” he said, “because, during the day, response times can be higher, and weekend response times can be lower. Some people may not respond in the middle of the night, because they might have to get up and get to work.”
Blount said response time depends on several factors from family time, work, illnesses, etc. With a shortage of volunteers, there’s no guarantee the department will have personnel available to respond at times.
“The volunteer mentality around is gong away really quick, and it’s sad,” Blount said. “That’s what a lot of people depend on – whether it’s a fire department, charitable organization, church – a lot of those depend on volunteers helping out and working. In the VFD world, we’ve seen a decline of people wanting to come out.”
Volunteer fire departments in rural counties like Lamar County are the backbones to the communities they serve. When it comes to helping others, Blount has taught his children the importance, because “If it’s my family in need – my kids, wife, parents – I’d want someone coming to help them. And in return, that’s how I feel. I want to help them.”
Most VFDs in Lamar County have just a handful of people who are actively able to respond to most calls, according to Blount.
“Throughout the day, people are working, spending time with family or out of town and are simply unable to respond all the time,” he said. “However, the more volunteers we have, the better chances of someone being able to respond to an emergency.”
Not only do volunteers help in critical, emergency situations, but at the fire departments themselves. Blount said VFDs need help with mechanical work on fire trucks, ensuring stations and equipment are kept clean, maintaining equipment, etc.
“The one area people think about are those on the scene – firefighting, cutting people out of cars, working the wreck, working the medical and all that,” Blount said. “If you join, you can get hands-on training, but you don’t necessarily need those skills already. They will teach you.”
Anyone over the age of 18 can volunteer and some Lamar County VFDs offer junior programs, allowing those under 18 the opportunity to volunteer, just not on scenes.
“I’d love for people to start helping out more. If people don’t jump in and start helping, with the increase in calls going on, I don’t know what we’re going to do to ensure there’s help for others. We want people helping each other, especially in a bad situation.”
For more information, or to start volunteering, contact your local volunteer fire department.
Photo: Volunteer firefighters demonstrate the use of extraction equipment during a community meet-and-greet event on Oct. 30, 2021, at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds. By Trent Reed/MyParisTexas.com